QUESTION: Is the Longview Public Library still accepting books for donations?

ANSWER: Book donations are suspended for right now, for a couple of reasons.

Library Director Jennifer Eldridge said book donations are coordinated by the nonprofit organization, Friends of the Longview Public Library. Donated books are used in the group’s book sale in support of the library.

However, many of those members are considered particularly vulnerable to the dangers of COVID-19, and they’re not out and about yet in the community, Eldridge said. Also, the library is not at full occupancy yet, so Eldridge said the library has been trying to maintain as much of its available space as possible for people who need “direct services.”

Eldridge said she expects to speak to the friends group soon, though, to determine how they might move forward with book donations.

Q: Who is remodeling the old Sears building at Longview Mall?

A: The mall’s owner, Washington Prime Group, began renovations there this year to make the space ready for two new tenants: Conn’s and Home Goods, according to mall spokeswoman Monica Hale.

Conn’s HomePlus sells furniture, appliances, electronics, mattresses, computers and other items. Home Goods is a discount home furnishings store.

Hale said the mall doesn’t have a specific opening date, explaining the mall will have a better idea of the stores’ opening time line after the spaces are delivered to the tenants to complete.

Q: Is it true that the Longivew Police Department has changed how it responds to some calls because of COVID-19?

A: This is a simplified question I’ve used to summarize what started off as an inquiry about a specific business in town that complained on Facebook about how the police responded to a call in May, which is of course after we all began to be concerned about what we could do to stop the spread of COVID-19.

I decided that there probably wasn’t much purpose in rehashing that specific incident, but to instead explain again that the police department, like other government agencies and private businesses, has been encouraging residents to find ways to conduct business over the phone or online. That includes encouraging residents to use the department’s non-emergency line, (903) 237-1199, if it isn’t necessary for an officer to go to a specific location to take a report. The department still takes the report and still conducts investigations, but reduces face-to-face interactions when possible.

I asked the police department for information about how it’s handling calls now. Here’s what Longview police spokesman Brandon Thornton provided me:

“The Longview Police Department has had a process for receiving police reports over the phone for some time before COVID-19. However, currently, the police department has put in place a greater effort to reduce in-person contact in the interest of public health and safety. Non-emergency calls to 911 will be prioritized in order of need, and, when possible, alternative methods for resolution will be used that minimize the need for in-person officer contact,” he said in an email around the end of May. “Examples of calls that have been addressed over the phone include: credit card abuse already occurred, criminal trespass already occurred, forgery already occurred, fraud, etc. Examples of calls that have received higher priority and in-person officer presence: Any in-progress call, calls involving violence, or if a victim requests an officer to respond to the location.”

Note that if you call the department and ask for an officer to come, an officer will be sent to your location (although calls have always been prioritized, so keep that in mind). However, you will be asked to respond to questions to help the department determine if you’re COVID-19 positive or have been exposed to COVID-19, so the department can take precautions.

It’s not exactly certain how long the department will continue to prioritize calls in this manner.

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to answerline@news-journal.com , leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.